Intra-Industry Foreign Direct Investment

Laura Alfaro, Andrew Charlton

NBER Working Paper No. 13447
Issued in September 2007
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment

We use a new firm level data set that establishes the location, ownership, and activity of 650,000 multinational subsidiaries -- close to a comprehensive picture of global multinational activity. A number of patterns emerge from the data. Most foreign direct investment (FDI) occurs between rich countries. The share of vertical FDI (subsidiaries which provide inputs to their parent firms) is larger than commonly thought, even within developed countries. More than half of all vertical subsidiaries are only observable at the four-digit level because the inputs they are supplying are so proximate to their parent firms' final good that they appear identical at the two-digit level. We call these proximate subsidiaries 'intra-industry' vertical FDI and find that their location and activity are significantly different to the inter-industry vertical FDI visible at the two-digit level. These subsidiaries are not readily explained by the comparative advantage considerations in traditional models, where firms locate their low skill production stages abroad in low skill countries to take advantage of factor cost differences. We find that overwhelmingly, multinationals tend to own the stages of production proximate to their final production giving rise to a class of high-skill intra-industry vertical FDI.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13447

Published: Alfaro, Laura and Andrew Charlton. "Intra-industry Foreign Direct Investment." American Economic Review 99, 5 (2009): 2096-2119. citation courtesy of

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